Falcons QB Matt Ryan wins NFL MVP, Offensive Player of Year

ByVaughn McClure ESPN logo
Sunday, February 5, 2017

HOUSTON -- Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was named NFL MVP at Saturday night's NFL Honors awards show, capping a career-best season in which he guided the team to its first Super Bowl appearance since 1999.

Ryan, 31, received 25 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finished second with 10 votes, followed by Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who each received six.

Ryan also won the Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year award Saturday, beating Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers 15 votes to 11. Hepassed for 4,944 passing yards with 38 touchdowns and only seven interceptions and led the NFL with a 117.1 passer rating, helping the Falcons score a league-high 540 points.

"I just want to say thank you, and this is an incredible honor for me," Ryan said in a video that was shown during the awards show (he did not attend). "Obviously, there are so many other great candidates and players who had amazing seasons. I want to thank all of my teammates; obviously without them, none of this is possible. We've had so many guys on our team make great plays and have great seasons for us, so thank you to those guys."

The third overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft, Ryan guided the Falcons to an 11-5 record, the NFC South title and their first playoff berth since the 2012 season.

It marked the second consecutive year a quarterback from the NFC South was named MVP, following Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers.

"If you're looking at consistency this year, I think you can talk about Matt Ryan," Falcons owner Arthur Blank said. "I think a lot of that's coming out of last year. I think that I would say that it's due to probably the offseason work that he put in himself personally, to some commitments he made on the West Coast to support his training, his offseason programming. I think he and [offensive coordinator] Kyle Shanahan have been on a much better communication path than they were in their first year. I think Matt's understanding of the system is certainly greater than it had been in Year 1.

"I think his ability to feel comfortable turning his back to the line of scrimmage, partly due to [center] Alex Mack, partly due to the offensive line withstanding their role staying together and carrying back when releasing the ball. I think all of that is critical. His ability to pass on the move and do it in an accurate fashion, all of that's gotten much better. That started from day one and has continued throughout the season."

Ryan, a four-time Pro Bowler, was considered to be the front-runner for the MVP award after being named first-team All-Pro, ahead of Super Bowl counterpart and two-time MVP Brady. As he evolved into the lead MVP candidate, Ryan maintained a team-oriented approach whenever he discussed the possibility of achieving the league's highest individual honor.

In his ninth season, Ryan set franchise single-season records in passing yards and touchdowns as well as completion percentage (69.9), passer rating (117.1), and passes of 25-plus yards (42). He also set a franchise single-game record with 503 passing yards in a 48-33 victory over Carolina. Ryan completed 373 of 534 passes through 16 games while throwing just seven interceptions.

He established an NFL first, according to Elias Sports Bureau, by completing touchdown passes to 13 targets during the regular season. Ryan completed passes to 15 receivers overall.

During a four-game winning streak to end the season, Ryan threw 11 touchdowns with no interceptions. He entered the season intent on cutting down turnovers after 21 miscues in 2015 (16 interceptions, five lost fumbles).

Ryan attributed his success to growth in Year 2 of Shanahan's offensive scheme, as the Falcons boasted the league's top-scoring offense at 33.8 points per game. The Falcons also helped build a stronger foundation around Ryan with the signing of four-time Pro Bowl center Mack along with the additions of wide receivers Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel and rookie tight end Austin Hooper. He already had a solid base with All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones and the running back tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman.

Related Video